In some ways, the ticking of an alarm clock can be a comforting sound. Or the ticking of a wall clock. But there could also be times that the constant ticking noise–specially at 2 AM during the quiet of the night is not so comforting.
You may find the green or red glow of an silent electric LED clock is not very appealing either.
Here are a few methods you can use to quiet your traditional tick-tock clock without sacrificing looks and function.
Note: I am not including Cuckoo clocks in this article. They are made to be noisy.
6 Ways to Make a Clock Quieter
It is very easy to silence a clock–if you do not want to see the time. Which, I would suggest, kind of defeats the purpose. The following suggestions will help you quiet your clock while allowing you to see the time and have access to set time or turn alarms on and off.
1) Lubricate Your Clock
In some cases, this is easier said than done because many ‘ticking’ clocks actually make sounds electronically without any moving parts. If this is your clock, you will have to try one of the other options to reduce the ticking sounds.
If you own a clock with true gears making the ticking sound, you can take the time to oil it and quiet it down. Remove as much of the clock housing as necessary to access all of the internal workings. Place the clock on its face and lubricate all moving parts with Clock Oil.
Yes, there is specialized oil for clocks. It is thinner than most other oils, and is usually available in small plastic squeeze bottles equipped with long thin tubes to access clock workings. Use sparingly. You can always go back and add a little more. Having oil dripping off every gear is not a good idea. And trying to absorb excess oil with a Q-tip that can leave tiny bits of lint on very precise gears will likely interfere with the clock’s operation.
Leave the cover off the clock, turn it over, and set it onto a rag or paper towel to let any excess oil drip out. (There should be very little, if any.) Reassemble the clock and listen to see if you have been successful. Keep the following things in mind when lubricating your clock.
- You will probably have to lubricate your clocks every 6 months to keep them quiet.
- I have seen 20W motor oil recommended because it is heavier and will make the clock quieter. Motor oil thins out as it gets hot. Oil does not get hot in a clock. I might save this option as a last resort–if ever.
- I have also seen the suggestion that leaving the back off the clock allows the oil to somehow evaporate. If oil evaporates at all, it will take significantly more than 30 minutes–closer to weeks or months.
2) Add Mass to Your Clock
When you have the back off your clock for lubrication, or just to check the amount of room available, consider adding some mass to the inside of the covers. This will help keep the noise inside the case. One of the best options is Mass Loaded Vinyl. It is about 1/8″ thick and has an STC rating of 23–meaning it will reduce noise by about 23 decibels.
You will need something to stick the MLV to the clock case. Something that will ensure it does not fall off into the clock works. Contact cement is one of the best options. It is also permanent, so make sure this is what you want to do. MLV is a butyl rubber compound, so double-sided tape that will adhere to it is also a good choice.
Another excellent option to add mass to the inside of your clock case is automotive soundproofing such as Noico or Dynamat. This self-adhesive product is also approximately 1/8″ thick. It is used to quiet road noise effectively, so it should work very well inside your clock. For more information please see our articles How to Fix Car Speaker Rattle and Kilmat vs Noico vs Dynamat vs Hushmat.
3) Build a Soundproof Acoustic Box for the Clock
Clocks are meant to be looked at because they provide information. Therefore, any soundproof box you buy or build will have to have an open or glass side. But by lining the inside of the box with sound absorbent material you will definitely eliminate a significant amount of clicking, ticking, and humming noise.
Buy a Premade Box – Then Soundproof It
Small premade boxes are available from many stores like Hobby Lobby, Michaels, Walmart, Amazon, etc. The box in the picture is glass fronted with access from the rear. They are available in multiple sizes from an arts and crafts store. The glass front eliminates it as an alarm clock option, but as a silencer for a ticking wall clock it is perfect.
Remove the back and line the wooden frame and rear panel with your choice of the following:
- Mass Loaded Vinyl. MLV will reduce the noise you hear by approximately 23 decibels. It is 1/8″ thick, and easily cut with knife or scissors. It is not self-adhesive. You need to put it on with contact cement or double sided tape that works on butyl rubber.
- Polyester Acoustic Panel. Polyester acoustic panels are made to absorb sound. They should easily absorb the sounds made by a ticking clock. The panels, which are 2/5″ thick, are easy to cut with a utility knife and can be installed with either double sided tape or spray on glue. (Removable double sided tape will not damage the inside of your box.) Foam acoustic panels will also absorb sound but are likely too thick to work well inside the box.
- Automotive Soundproofing. Automotive soundproofing is 1/8″ thick, is self-adhesive with a foil face, and easy to cut and apply. Almost all makes have a shiny aluminum foil finish. Although Noico makes a black foil finished product. Automotive soundproofing reduces road noise in your vehicle, so it will have no trouble damping the noise produced by a ticking clock.
To hang your clock in a box with a thin back, you need a small short bolt with 2 nuts and 2 flat washers. Drill a hole where required, spin one nut and washer onto the bolt, insert it into the hole, and put on the other washer and nut. The 2 nut and 2 washer system allows you to adjust the bolt to the proper depth and once tightened, will reduce sag.
A box like this can be used for an alarm clock if you remove the glass. Or you can find one without glass that is deep enough to accommodate your alarm clock.
Build a Soundproof Box
Building a soundproof box gives you more sizing flexibility. The box can also be built without a front–glass or otherwise–making it perfect for alarm clocks. Use 1/2″ thick MDF. MDF is an excellent soundproofing product because of its heavy mass. It is also available with a white melamine finish or various woodgrain finishes. (Most kitchen cupboards are made of MDF, so it is easy to find.) You can also buy matching strips to glue onto the cut edges.
Although MDF provides good soundproofing, you may want more. To increase the soundproofing ability of your box, use any one of the soundproof products mentioned in the preceding section–Mass Loaded Vinyl, Polyester Acoustic Panel, Automotive Soundproofing.
4) Cover Your Clock With Glass
Glass is naturally a great reflective surface because it is very smooth. A glass cover for your clock will reflect the noise back into the enclosure. Glass clock covers are made in a dome shape up to approximately 8″ in diameter x various heights. They are generally used to cover and protect decorative table clocks and mantle clocks. The glass will also keep the noise from escaping.
If your clock is too big for these types of domes, consider buying a glass cake dome. These are available in various sizes–some quite large. Make sure that you measure your clock and the interior size of the dome before buying it.
Note: Glass enclosures are a really bad idea for alarm clocks. For obvious reasons.
5) Replace the Clock Mechanism
Buying new quiet clock mechanisms is a good option to quiet the noise from your clocks without having to purchase a complete new clock. Many of these mechanisms are used by clock builders. Some of them come with multiple choices of hands–different shapes, colors, and sizes. You may also find some kits with stick-on numbers. You can find many silent clock movements for under $20.00.
Most of these clock works are very easy to replace. Just remove the clock hands, then the nut and washer on the clock face. The entire mechanism can then be removed and replaced with the new unit. Just do everything in reverse order. Except, as the following video shows, getting the proper shaft length can be quite important. You can also get digital clock works that give you a ticking sound. Make sure you check out the options and buy the one you want.
This replacement system really only works for digital clocks. Clocks with gears, wheels, teeth, and all kinds of mechanical parts do not have plug and play replacement options. You will have to use one of our other suggestions to silence the noise, buy a new clock, or take it to a watch/clock repair shop to see if they can eliminate the ticking.
6) Buy a New Silent Clock
If all else fails, it might be time to consider buying a silent digital clock. You can find dozens to choose from. Prices start under $10.00 and can end up well over $300.00 for some fairly fancy living room wall clocks.
Digital alarm clocks are available for under $10.00. They can range in price up to $100.00. Some of the more expensive clocks can measure outside temperature and humidity. Just to let you know what you will be facing when you finally get up.
Keep in mind that going to the effort to silence a clock may only be worthwhile if you have a fairly expensive clock worth saving. The alarm clock in the picture has lasted about 10 years and cost less than $10.00. So for less than a buck a year I have had a very serviceable alarm clock. If the ticking gets to be too much or it wears out, I will just buy a new one.
A Few Other Ideas to Make Your Clock Quieter
Here are a few other things to try when making your clock quieter.
- Soundproof the Motor. This is a quick and fairly effective method to quiet a wall clock with a glass face. Cut a piece of old heavy towel or Mass Loaded Vinyl about 2″ bigger than the mechanism–in both directions. Tape this over the clockworks to silence it from the rear. (The glass should make it fairly quiet from the front.) Note: You will have to remove the soundproofing cover to change the battery or reset the time. The batteries in most clocks last well over a year–making this a fairly rare job.
- Cover with a Heavy Towel. For those days when you do not need the alarm and plan to sleep until you are slept out, just throw a heavy towel over the clock. It will absorb the ticking noise and eliminate the light. What could be better?
- Use Soft Underlay. One of the quickest and easiest ways to reduce noise is to set your alarm clock on a soft base. A face cloth or dish cloth or small towel. This eliminates the small echoes and vibrations of the clock. For a wall clock, stick at least 4 kitchen cabinet silicone bumpers on the back. These will separate the clock from the wall and get rid of any excess sound.